Exposing your bike to moisture and humidity is inevitable. There is always a good chance for rust to develop, especially if you are not adequately taking care of your bike spokes. For this reason, you must be aware of the proper rust removal and cleaning process.
What you will need to clean rusty bike spokes:
- Elbow grease
- Anti-rust spray – it is ideal to use the WD40 Specialist Penetrant Spray.
- Brass or steel wool – if you do not have steel wool, you can create a disposable scrubber using aluminum foil. All you need is about a foot of aluminum foil crumpled into a dense ball. I find crumpled aluminum foil better than steel wool as it does not loosen once in use. It is also abrasive yet will not scratch and damage the bike’s spokes.
- Warm water
- Dish soap
- Clean, dry cloth
DIY MTB Pro Tip: Learn about the different lubricates that will extend the life of your bike in this article 🚴♀️ 👉 Bike Greases and Lubes (Bikes, Chains and Bearings)
The first step to removing rust from your spokes is to clean them. Remove any dirt, mud, and particles stuck on each spoke. While wiping the spokes one by one may be tedious, cleaning the spokes will make it easier for the anti-rust spray to penetrate once you apply it.
You can use a cloth and elbow grease to clean the bike spokes. (source)
You need to remove the first layer of corrosion to clean rusty bike spokes. So, coat them with anti-rust spray once the spokes are dirt-free. Anti-rust spray like WD40 can effectively remove the rusted surface, thus quickening the rust removal process.
However, you need to wear protective equipment before applying the spray. Anti-rust spray products can have a strong smell and consist of chemicals. For this reason, you must wear gloves, a mask, and goggles to prevent the spray from contacting you directly.
Let the anti-rust spray sit for 30 seconds before scrubbing the spokes with either steel wool or crumpled tin foil. Both steel wool and crumpled foil are abrasive so that they will scrub off the surface layer of the rust.
3. Create a solution of warm water and dish soap
It is worth noting that anti-rust spray is insufficient to clean rusty bike spokes. So, after scrubbing the top layer of the rust, you need to prepare warm water and dish soap solution.
Get a small bowl and a cup of warm water. You can even use hot water if your hands tolerate it. Mix 3 to 4 drops of dish soap into your water and mix it until the soap dissolves.
There are two things you need to avoid when creating a water and soap solution for rust removal:
- Avoid using cold water. Cold water cannot loosen the rust from your bike spokes, so it will not come off no matter how hard you scrub it. Warm and hot water treats the rust effectively, so you will not have to scrub the rust off too hard.
- Avoid using other soaps than dish soap if possible. Regular soaps can lengthen the cleaning process as they are not as concentrated as dish soap. If you cannot avoid using ordinary soaps, make sure you use more than you would when treating rust with dish soap. This way, you can ensure that your solution is still effective.
While your soapy water is still warm, take a crumpled aluminum foil, steel wool, or abrasive brush. Wet the brush with the solution and use it to scrub off the rust from the corroded spokes.
Take note that you need to apply pressure when scrubbing the rust. However, you also have to observe how hard you are scrubbing, as too much force can cause the spokes to bend. If this happens, it may weaken your wheel as the tension from the bent spoke changes. It can also cause the wheel to warp, which will require truing.
If the warm soapy water is not doing the trick, you can try adding a few drops of vinegar or lemon juice to the mixture. The acid helps disintegrate rust, thus forcing it to come off as you scrub.
Once you notice that the rust is coming off, wipe the spokes with a cloth to see if you were able to clean all the affected areas. If there is still some discoloration, repeat the process until you get rid of all the rust. (source)
Essential Note: If you see any spoke that is too weak or too damaged by rust, the best option is to replace it with a new one. Installing a new bike spoke is quick, easy, and inexpensive, so you do not have to worry about the cost of replacement. (source)
Once you remove the rust, you want to rinse off the bike spokes with running water. This way, you can free the spokes from loosened rust particles while simultaneously removing the soap and water solution.
Now that you’ve rinsed the spokes conduct a final inspection to see whether or not there is rust that you missed. If you still find discolorations from the spokes, recreate your dish soap and water mixture and do one final scrub. Remember that the tiniest speck of rust can increase when your bike’s storage environment is moist and humid. If you mist any spot of rust, the tedious job you did to clean rusty bike spokes will be in vain.
After ensuring the rust is completely gone, use a clean cloth to wipe away the moisture from your bike spokes. Make sure that you are drying all the spokes and hard-to-reach areas. Failure to do so can result in more rust buildup, which can cause permanent damage to your bike spokes.
Apply a thin layer of wax to the spokes after drying them. The wax will serve as a barrier, preventing moisture and humidity from corroding your bike spokes. After following all these steps, you are good to go for another biking adventure without worrying that your spokes might break due to rust buildup. (source)
Was this tutorial helpful? If yes, I’d love to hear your thoughts, so drop them in the comments section! You can also share this article with your co-cyclists to help them figure out how to clean rusty bike spokes.
The number one enemy of bike owners is corrosion. Rust on bike spokes and any metal parts of the bike can result in costly damage. For this reason, getting rid of rust as soon as it starts to develop is crucial to maintaining your bike’s function.
Looking for Some More Ways to Help Your Bike Last
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- Everyone wants a new bike, find out when it’s time to buy with this article: Repair Old Bike or Buy New – Options
- DIY Mountain Bike Tune Up – A Complete guide to what to repair and how.
- Gavin Wright. Bike Maintenance For Dummies. John Wiley & Sons, 2013. https://books.google.com.ph/books?id=Ij9VAgAAQBAJ&pg=PT36&dq=how+to+remove+rust+from+bike+spokes&hl=en&sa=X&ved=2ahUKEwjFzsjD4pX6AhVXtVYBHXE4C1I4ChDoAXoECAYQAg#v=onepage&q=how%20to%20remove%20rust%20from%20bike%20spokes&f=false. Accessed September 15, 2022.
- Gill Chilton. Cleaning and Stain Removal for Dummies. Great Britain: John Wiley & Sons, 2004. https://books.google.com.ph/books?id=bBC947mZR1cC&pg=PA165&dq=how+to+clean+rust+from+bike+rims&hl=en&sa=X&ved=2ahUKEwiTjbn845X6AhVAmlYBHX-1CAwQ6AF6BAgJEAI#v=onepage&q=how%20to%20clean%20rust%20from%20bike%20rims&f=false. Accessed September 15, 2022.
- Todd Downs and Editors of Bicycling Magazine. The Bicycling Guide to Complete Bicycle Maintenance & Repair: For Road & Mountain Bikes. USA: Rodale, 2010. https://books.google.com.ph/books?id=NtDk3zF9Y2wC&pg=PA234&dq=how+to+remove+rust+from+bike+spokes&hl=en&sa=X&ved=2ahUKEwjX7MXHvJX6AhXzRmwGHd-KAikQ6AF6BAgJEAI#v=onepage&q=how%20to%20remove%20rust%20from%20bike%20spokes&f=false. Accessed September 15, 2022